SFFILM 2021 REVIEW: Supercool

The golden age of teenage hijinks movies has not passed. From Booksmart to Blockers and even Good Boys and The Prom the tradition of wedging adolescent yearning into calamitous evenings has never been stronger. But for every American Pie there are a dozen sub-par American Pie rips offs. Supercool might have a capable cast and a twist on the usual story of teenage lust, but it never bothers to embrace its strengths or move beyond its frustrating and incoherent shortfalls.

Supercool was shot in Alabama, is set somewhere in “America”, but it is a Finnish production. Director Teppo Airaksinen seems to be making a move on the Americas with his first English language feature, and it feels like something has been lost in translation.

The film follows timid teenager Neil (Jake Short). Neil is quiet and seems sweet. He spends all of his time drawing comics, hanging with his best friend Gilbert (Miles J. Harvey), and pining over pretty classmate Summer (Madison Davenport). When he finds out that Summer is having a birthday party that weekend, he manages to muster up the courage to ask her for an invite, only for tragedy to strike. Humiliated, Neil goes home to wallow.

Have you ever heard of that superstition that you get to make a wish when the clock strikes 11:11pm? Though it holds as much weight as avoiding stepping on cracks to avoid severing your mom’s spine, Supercool asks what would happen if these wishes came true. That night, Neil asks the Great Whatever for another chance with summer, and the Great Whatever has a very strange way to answer his wish.

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All of that is well and good, and has laid a solid bedrock for horny teen shenanigans with a magical twist, but Supercool inexplicably drops the ball when it comes to pursuing the good stuff. The magic is not really examined or recreated. This affects no one other than Neil. No one steps up to try to recreate or abuse this power. It is as if the film just needed a way to make Neil slightly more awkward, and then completely forgot that it was initially making moves toward something unique.

Instead we get a moderately interesting story of two amourous teens who are trying to get to a party but keep getting thwarted by unrelated events in rapid succession. There are some inappropriate nods to racism by the police which are played off as a joke, and confounding plot lines and character motivations sprinkled throughout. Watching the film turned into more of an exercise in understanding who might find this interesting than it was in wondering what might happen next.

Not only is the squandered premise a disappointment, but the actors feel wasted here too. Short is downright charming when he is allowed to be, and he easily could have handled a more emotionally cohesive or understandable character arc. Harvey too is the kind of kid who is suited to these comic roles, but he is instead left trying to make sense of the mess of a plot he has to go along with. Damon Wayans Jr. does shine in his surprising turn as Neil’s neighbor, but his character is essentially in a completely different movie than the other two male leads, and Supercool spends far too much time with him.

Supercool sets out for greatness, but flops.

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